Just like last year, we'll be grading all the Tigers who contributed significant playing time over the course of the season, starting with the position players, then doing the rotation members, and finally finishing up with the bullpen and writing profiles for players without enough playing time to earn a grade. Each list will run in alphabetical order. These reviews will occasionally dip into sabermetrics so we can get a better idea why things happened, but I'll try to explain as we go through things.
Every year, Ramon Santiago does what he's asked to. He's far from the star. He's not even a full-time starter. Yet he's a good step above the 25th man on the roster. He'd the kind of dependable player every successful team needs. In 2011, he came through in the clutch a couple of times, he gave the Tigers a dependable fielder in the middle infield and he really should have started a few more games at second base.
But I think the people who see Santiago as a solution for everyday starter at second base are mistaken in his abilities. What makes Santiago a good and useful player isn't that he starts every day, it's that he starts on the right days. Even then, his batting numbers are not exactly pretty even compared to the average second baseman, let alone average starting second baseman. But I guess when you look at his competition in Detroit, I can see their point.
This might be the last time Santiago is given a grade in the Tigers' uniform. He's a free agent, and the Pirates are showing interest. So I'll make it a good one.
At the plate:
Santiago actually had his lowest average (.260) and on-base percentage (.311) since 2006. He did, however, show a rebound in his power, with a .124 ISO (and .384 slugging average). So when you add it up, his OPS was actually .033 higher this season, finishing at .695.
For the second year in a row, Santiago kept his line drive rate in the low-20% range. That's a good spot to be. However, he saw a drop in his BABIP as he hit fewer ground balls and more fly balls. Couple that with a higher home run per fly ball rate and you understand where the power gain came from.
He walked less (5.8%) but he struck out less as well (12.9%). He continued to offer at about the same amount of pitches inside and outside of the zone, but made ever-so-slightly better contact.
Getting a bit more sabermetric on you, this marks the third season in a row his wOBA was in the low 300s. At .305, it found the middle ground between 2009 and 2010. His weighted runs created came in at a below-average 88 (on a 100 scale), but it continued to trend up from an 82 in 2009.
His base running, too ,showed a game, to 1.4 runs above average.
In the field
Santiago spent most of his time in the middle infield, and earned most of his innings as a second baseman. This is exactly opposite the norm for Santiago, which was backing up shortstop with some time spent at second. He also spend a couple innings at third base, but really too few to think about.
The advanced stats still show Santiago to be average or a bit above average, but compared to 2010 his numbers were down a bit. Variation is to be expected in advanced stats even if play remains consistent. So Santiago's defensive runs saved was 0 at second base and 2 at shortstop. His UZR/150 games was 3.8 at second base and 10.4 at shortstop.
Fans gave him a 65 score (50 is average). Good range, average hands, good throwing accuracy, average strength. The grade was up slightly from last year, but the same strengths were highlighted.
At his age, I wouldn't expect any big changes in his game. You might even expect a bit less power next year.
I would still be opposed to giving Santiago a starting job at second base. I like him in the role the Tigers have carved out for him and hope they can find a way to bring in an every day second baseman from another organization. But if not, well, he's better than the other options Detroit has, right? However, as it stands, Santiago might not even be in Detroit next year.